In response to:
Did Anyone Start the Cold War? from the September 2, 1971 issue
To the Editors:
Permit me, please, a few serious but wholly friendly remarks concerning Ronald Steel’s phrase about the “disciples of William Appleman Williams” [“Did Anyone Start the Cold War?” NYR, September 2, 1971].
Williams has made several careful efforts to describe the nature of the relationship between himself and those who worked with him at Wisconsin, or who read his essays and books at a distance. Hence one grows weary of the term “disciples” because it is a cliché without a tap root into truth (therefore a logical contradiction), and because it ignores what did (and therefore can) happen in the process of graduate education.
The correct word is community.
Williams and the others, each in his or her own way, are committed to the proposition that History is the most consequential way of learning who we are and what we should do. That is a radical (even a revolutionary) thesis, and all of them have struggled to honor the radicalism—as well as the demanding disciplines of rigorous research and analysis.
All are teachers and all are students. They are equal citizens of a community.
Williams appreciates being acknowledged for his work. He deeply desires that others be recognized for their labor.
William A. Williams
May 18, 1972